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Trends to Watch in Grocery

5 Trends to Watch in Grocery for 2021

Krystal Paisley

March 19, 2021

Research shows it takes between 18 and 254 days to form a long-lasting habit or change in behavior, and on average, just 66 days. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, grocers should take note of how shopper behaviors and expectations have changed into an entirely new lifestyle.


It’s no surprise that the pandemic will forever change consumer behavior in-store, online, at work, and elsewhere. Grocery is no exception. What can you not get online? Service, in-Store experiences, socialization, all of which need ramping up to provide what consumers have been missing.


At the start of the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about the new normal, but what’s next? We’re entering a new phase in everyday habits, behaviors, and routines. What is our next normal?


Here are some trends to watch as grocers (and consumers) prepare for the next normal in grocery.

TREND: Elevated In-Store Experiences

Approximately 15% of U.S. consumers tried grocery delivery for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those, 40% intend to continue getting groceries delivered long-term. Delivery newcomers have been surprised and delighted by the benefits of grocery delivery.


This means grocers must give a reason for shoppers to walk in the door. Provide shoppers with an experience or service that just can’t be beaten by the convenience of delivery. Fresh, made-to-order offerings like juice bars and guacamole stations, events like wine tastings, or café and gathering spaces are all experiential services that bring service back into the equation while keeping sales in mind. Think of the sounds, smells, and tastes that just can’t be captured with online shopping.


Trying to stand out among the competition? Don’t forget special customer service. Whether it’s a new in-store service like tailoring or banking, or in-store expert recommendations, a little service goes a long way in enticing in-store shopping and brand loyalty.

TREND: Multipurpose Trips

It’s become a habit to minimize trips, making one-stop-shops an essential shopping habit. Grocers can leverage this new behavior by competing with, and taking hints from, restaurants and convenience stores.


Most grocers have caught onto the grab-and-go trend to provide quick meals and staples.  The rotisserie chicken is proof of concept for this, but why not take it a step further? Grocers can provide restaurant-quality meals that shoppers can take home for dinner that evening.


And for the shoppers who want an additional at-home experience, create pre-portioned meal kits for singles, couples, and families, without the incredible amount of waste created by similar mail-order services.

TREND: The Quest for Convenience

While experiences and services are critical to getting shoppers in-store, convenience will remain king. Practically every grocer offers curbside pickup, most offer delivery through a third party, and some offer in-store pick-up options.


Grocers will be tested on their convenience while providing high levels of service. This means innovations are necessary for curbside pickup, whether it’s a dedicated pick-up area, improved traffic flows, or creating a seamless experience with geofencing technology.


And don’t forget the back-of-house operations. Staging areas for curbside pickup should include both cold and hot storage areas. Why limit the hot items to just in-store shoppers?

TREND: Improved Apps & Tech

Consumers are accustomed to technology adapting at lightning speed. Just think of all the new grocers offering curbside pickup and new restaurants allowing mobile order. Grocery apps must adapt or they’ll get left behind.


An important improvement is reporting more accurate inventory, so customers know what to expect whether you’re shopping in-store, pickup, or delivery. Wouldn’t it be great if customers were able to select substitutions for items that are nearly out of stock?


There is also a new level of customization expected, and the app should be no different. Enhancements include item location and floor plans in-app, customized meal planning tools, and revamped loyalty programs.


Most important? Listening to customers. As previously mentioned, customer needs were met almost immediately during the pandemic. This behavior will be expected moving forward. Listening to customer feedback and needs, then adapting existing technology is key.

TREND: Increase in Dark Stores

Whole Foods capitalized on the dark store model in 2020 to cater towards delivery fulfillment. This no-shoppers-style warehouse operates as a Whole Foods store with products but is only used to fulfill grocery deliveries.


The dark store model has a number of benefits for shoppers and grocers. In-store shoppers no longer have to dodge the oversized curbside pickup carts or the third-party shoppers fulfilling multiple orders. And those shopping online from a dark store benefit from more accurate inventory counts as inventory is all managed online.


Grocers also benefit from the dark store approach. Dark stores can be smaller footprints, utilizing less expensive real-estate, have dedicated staffing, and benefit from otherwise difficult to access locations, like high-density neighborhoods. Rather than balancing the needs of in-store shoppers and those who opt for pickup or delivery, grocers can specify needs based on the location.

What’s Next for Grocery?

These are just some of the many trends that will shape grocery stores of the future. It only takes 66 days to develop a new habit, and there’s no question that “new” grocery shopping habits from the previous year will be the next normal.


Ready to get your grocery brand on board? Interested in hearing more? We have experts on board to make any of these trends and other innovative ideas a reality.


Let’s talk. Reach out to us at We’d love to hear from you.